President Obama’s hemorrhaging foreign policy is creating an increasingly embarrassing mess at the United Nations. A four-week session of the U.N.’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ended in Geneva on March 28, 2014, with a series of humiliating defeats for the president’s calling card of indiscriminate engagement.
Joining, and legitimizing, a U.N. Human Rights Council with no human rights conditions for membership was one of President Obama’s first foreign policy moves. Hence, the United States was elected to the Council in 2009, re-elected in 2013, and currently sits alongside such human rights luminaries as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.
This session took place against the backdrop of Russia’s aggressive takeover of parts of a sovereign country, in gross violation of the human rights of Ukrainians. And yet the Council itself couldn’t manage a peep.
A U.S.-backed resolution at the U.N. General Assembly adopted on March 27, 2014, criticized Russia, but failed to take what would have been the truly isolating step of removing Russia from the Council.
So what did the Council do while it was in session?
For the first time, the Council adopted a resolution on “remotely piloted aircraft or drones” – including those which are unarmed. Creatively, the resolution “expresses concern” that such aircraft “undermine religious and cultural practices,” thus transforming perpetrators into victims.
The Obama administration overwhelmingly lost the vote on this resolution, 27 in favor to 6 against.
The European Union was split, with Germany insulting President Obama by merely abstaining.
Back in 2009, the Obama administration had touted its close working relationship with Egypt and its ability to defeat the dangerous effort by Islamic states to invoke religion as an excuse for limiting free speech.
Today, U.S. diplomats work the free speech resolution alone. And the only way it passed, was to add a sly reference to another resolution that attacks “abuses of freedom of expression that constitute religious discrimination.”
Team Obama also sat silently by while the Council adopted another Islamic group attack on free speech. The phony title of their resolution was: “combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief.”
Other Obama losses on “human rights” resolutions aimed at Western pocketbooks included: a Cuban-led resolution on “the effects of foreign debt,” and an African-led resolution on “non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin.”
The Russians succeeded in passing a resolution on the “integrity of the judicial system,” allegedly directed at “upholding the rule of law and democracy.” Co-sponsored by countries that do exactly the opposite, like China, Cuba, North Korea and Sudan, the United States was the only country to vote against this Russian initiative. The entire European Union abandoned the Obama administration and merely abstained.
After Cuba thundered “we the states of the south continue to be plundered,” the Council enthusiastically adopted a Cuban resolution on the “promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.” The decision demands that the Council “expert” charged with supporting the resolution’s implementation receive “all necessary human and financial resources” from the UN. American taxpayers are on the hook for pushing Cuba’s idea of democracy.
Iran led the charge for a resolution on “enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights.” The European Union joined consensus “in a spirit of compromise.” The Obama administration said nothing and did the same.
The Council successfully managed to renew the job of human rights investigator on Iran. But in the words of the European Union, the only way this result occurred was by adopting “a short procedural text” containing not a single word of substantive criticism of human rights in Iran.
By contrast, the Council had no trouble adopting lengthy detailed resolutions condemning Israel for imaginable offences of all kinds – five, to be precise.
That is five times more than any other country on Earth. Just eight other states, from the remaining 192 UN members, were targeted by the Council with one resolution each: Guinea, Iran, Burma/Myanmar, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Sri Lanka and Syria.
Contemplate the billions ignored.
Then consider the Council’s resolution on the “Syrian Golan.” The Council declared that it was “deeply concerned at the suffering of Syrian civilians in the occupied Syrian Golan due to the…violation of human rights by Israel.” The resolution didn’t mention the suffering of Syrian civilians due to the violation of human rights by Syria.
The fact that Syrians flee to the Golan in order to be saved by Israeli doctors from the wounds inflicted by their own government was also mysteriously missing. The Syrian Golan resolution even complained that because of Israel, Syrians are failing to visit “their relatives in the Syrian motherland.” In the UN human rights world, only the United States voted against.
Behavior at the Council does clarify that the demonization of Israel at the U.N. is really about denying Jewish self-determination and encouraging the ultimate destruction of a Jewish state.
The Palestinian ambassador’s speech on March 28, 2014 included: “since the establishment of Israel until today, Israel has flouted international legitimacy.”
On March 24, 2014, the Palestinian ambassador told the Council: "recognizing the Jewish nature of the Israeli state is an arrogant demand. There is no justification for this claim.” Four days later, he feigned: “We don’t really know what is meant by anti-semitism when it is claimed by Israel here.”
We do know what is meant by anti-Semitism. Moreover, we recognize the long list of American values subverted by the U.N. Human Rights Council – and by a foreign policy whose endgame has been the approval of our enemies.
Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.